Houghton on History

Remembering our past lest it be forgotten

Then and Now – Maps Edition

Keeping with my interest in the whole Then and Now theme – whereby old pictures are compared to present day pictures – I found another form that I thought I would share. From the wonderful Smithsonian Magazine website comes their series American Cities: Before and After. City maps from the 1800’s are superimposed atop a Google Earth view of the same city.  Pretty cool! Of particular interest for me are When the Lincoln Memorial Was Underwater:

Screenshot from the interactive map from "When the Lincoln Memorial Was Underwater"

Interactive map from “When the Lincoln Memorial Was Underwater”

What Did San Francisco Look Like in the Mid-1800s?:

San Francisco from the mid-1800s.

San Francisco from the mid-1800s

and What Did Chicago Look Like Before the Great Fire?, a map from 1868 that unfortunately doesn’t cover Jackson Park, the location of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (for all of us The Devil in the White City fans):

1868 pocket map of Chicago superimposed atop Google Maps.

1868 pocket map of Chicago superimposed atop Google Earth

Interesting to look at. Check it out!


Then and Now locations

There is something about visiting a place that holds a certain significance, either in my personal life or in history. For me, “history” includes a physical location, not necessarily well-known,  recorded on film. That is why I get such a kick out of sites like HistoryPin. Movie locations are another interest, for example the location of the stairs featured in the Laurel and Hardy film “The Music Box”.

Something else I discovered today that falls under the “Then and Now” category are paintings. I read an interesting blog post on The History Blog about the discovery of the location of  the street in Vermeer’s 1658 painting View of House in Delft. While I’m not an art buff, the Then and Now comparison is just as fascinating for me.

Read Vermeer’s Little Street Discovered.


Courtesy the Rijks Museum

Digging up another Ancient Roman coin hoard

As I have mentioned previously, I used to collect ancient Roman coins. It is a great way to connect to history by holding in one’s hand an artifact from that time. One of my favorite blogs is The History Blog, maintained by Livius Drusus. With a nom de plume  like that, you know you found a compatriot in ancient history. Anyway, a recent post by Livius was on a recent discovery of an ancient Roman coin hoard with over 4,000 coins! Quite interesting to find out that in rural areas, where there were no Roman banks (who knew Romans had banks?), burying coins was a way to keep your money safe. This I did not know, and it explains a lot about why there even were buried hoards of coins.

Read Roman coin hoard found in Swiss cherry orchard


Cleaned coins from hoard. Image courtesy the Aargau Canton.

The American Civil War, Then and Now

I’ve been reading a lot of Civil War books lately, so it was perfect timing when my Uncle Jean sent me a link to a “then and now” photo collection of the Civil War. This piece also includes audio clips of people explaining the context of the photograph. Very well done and I highly recommend checking it out.

Also, the story of how the photographer shot the photos is interesting as well.

Reunion of Union and Confederate soldiers at the 50th anniversary of Gettysburg, 1913

Reunion of Union and Confederate soldiers at the 50th anniversary of Gettysburg, 1913

Hot tubbing it with Trajan

I’ve been interested in ancient Roman history for most of my life. I used to collect ancient Roman coins and had a large library of books about Rome. Haven’t visited yet, but it is on my bucket list.

One of my favorite blogs I subscribe to is The History Blog. A recent post was about excavation being done at a road house at the Ancient Roman fortress Sostra, along the Via Trajana.  The road house has been compared to a 5-star hotel, with facilities including a bathroom, a heated pool, several other hot and cold pools, and under-floor heating.  Fascinating stuff!

Sostra road house

Roman luxury near Sostra. Photo courtesy of National Museum of History.

Roman pool heater found in Bulgarian resort

Trajan’s conquest of Dacia, so beautifully immortalized on the column that bears his name, was as immense a construction project as it was a military one. Trajan (r. 98-117 A.D.) built several major roads during his campaigns in Dacia, feats of engineering urged by the military necessity to clear a path for the organized and speedy movement of troops and supplies. The Via Trajana almost bisects central Bulgaria. It started in the Danube city of Ulpia Oescus, today the town of Gigen just south of the Romanian border, then went south through Sostra (modern-day Troyan) and the Troyan Pass in the Balkan Mountains before ending in Philippopolis (modern-day Plovdiv) which in Trajan’s day was in the Roman province of Thrace and is now in southern Bulgaria. The road played an important strategic role in the conquest of Dacia since it provided the army with a vital link connecting the Roman province of Lower Moesia on the Danube Plain with the largest city in Thrace. An even longer road Trajan built, the Via Militaris, intersected Philippopolis going the other way, diagonally from the northwest to the southeast of what is now Bulgaria.

Read more…

7 Incredible Hoards Discovered in the Past 7 Years

I’ve always wanted to buy an expensive metal detector and go searching, not just for lost coins at the beach, but actual treasure from history past. I used to collect ancient Roman coins and I was always amazed at the stories I would read of farmers turning up these coins in their fields.

Here is another Mental Floss article on great treasure finds, with fun names like “The Le Catillon II Hoard” (oh how I long to find a hoard!) and “The Ruelzheim Treasure”. Amazingly, many were found by “metal detectorists”. Hmmm, maybe its time to consider a new hobby…

Read article here.

Nether Compton hoard

The Nether Compton hoard was found inside a pot buried in a field near Nether Compton, England on 19th February 1989. This hoard contained 22,670 Roman coins; all of about 7% were from the 330’s. The hoard was probably deposited circa A.D. 339, since it contained no two victory types. It has been estimated that there were 20,000 to 21,000 Gloria Exercitus coins and around 1,000 to 2,000 Urbs Roma and Constantinopolis commemoratives. There were about 600 various other coins, the earliest dating to Aurelian. Image courtesy of http://www.constantinethegreatcoins.com

Divers recover $65m of silver coins from ship sunk by U-boat

Here’s an interesting piece I read from msn news. I’m a big fan of WWII history and found this story to be particularly interesting for its human element. The actions taken by the German U-boat captain to allow the passengers to escape on to lifeboats is a reminder that there is humanity in all of us, even when countries are at war.

Read the article here.

German U-Boat

Copyright Getty Images


Found! 5 People from History Whose Graves Were Lost

One of my addictive reads is Mental Floss. They recently ran a piece called “5 Graves that Were Lost, Then Found”. The article covers Richard III (a topic I have been following closely), the Romanovs (something I did not know), and Henry VIII. All fascinating facts for us history buffs.

Read the article here.

WWII Bomb Craters

I’m a big fan of WWII history so when I came across this article I thought it was fascinating. Denver doesn’t offer the same kind of rich, historical fabric that is available in Europe. This article describes the art exhibit of photographer Henning Rogge who spends his time looking for and documenting WWII bomb craters. The exhibit is in New York City, but the article has some nice photos from the exhibit, which runs through September 13th 2014 at RH Contemporary Art.

Read the full article here.

This is a V-1 launch site in Beauvoir, France,  superimposed onto more-recent imagery. The U.S. targeted this spot for 12 bombing runs.

This is a V-1 launch site in Beauvoir, France, superimposed onto more-recent imagery. The U.S. targeted this spot for 12 bombing runs.

This Day in History: New York’s Monorail Fell Over

Who’d a thunk it. When I think of a monorail, I think of the sleek machines at Disneyland, and also now in Las Vegas (which, by the way, the first one to run in Vegas was originally from Walt Disney World). This incident tool place in 1910, when the world was a different place and people lived in an “anything goes” society. When I read about how our modern building codes evolved  from different tragedies, I’m amazed anyone survived to propagate the species. Read the full account of how New York’s Monorail Suffered a Grievous Wreck.

I can't put my finger on it, but there's something not right about this design.

I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something not right about this design.

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